By Ridge Mahoney
In about a month, the domestic transfer window will re-open, all 22 MLS teams will sign the
perfect players to fill their needs, and all the fans shall rejoice.
In the real world, more teams will fail in their quests to land the ideal midseason additions than will succeed and a
few of them will edge into the playoffs anyway. That’s how it works in MLS, and teams and players and fans know all too well that not since the Galaxy took the Supporters’ Shield and MLS
Cup double in 2011 has the regular-season champion followed up with the biggest prize.
With most teams taking next weekend off in light of the FIFA international break, here’s a
quick rundown on which teams look most like MLS Cup contenders, which are in the chasing pack, and which are falling – or have fallen – off the pace. IN THE
LEAD TORONTO FC.
Obviously, Toronto FC has added an excellent player in Victor Vazquez
to an already strong squad and rode
through the injury absence of Drew Moor
to showcase its depth. Significant needs:
Other than health and quashing of offers for Sebastian Giovinco
, none. FC DALLAS.
It has cooled off from a nine-game unbeaten streak to start the season but with playmaker Mauro Diaz
back healthy should soon
regain first place in the Western Conference. Needs:
Injury to Walker Zimmerman
is a reminder that its heavy schedule demands another experienced centerback. CLOSE
BEHIND SPORTING KANSAS CITY.
Concerns at centerback and in goal have been addressed by Ike Opara
, respectively. Gerso
is not the second coming of Krisztian Nemeth
but he’s getting the job done. Needs:
Reliable forward to supplement Dom Dwyer
for depth. NEW YORK CITY FC.
Adding Maxi Moralez
has upgraded the quality and lessened dependence on Andrea Pirlo
A solid day’s work, every day, from Jack Harrison
and a few others. SLEEPERS L.A. GALAXY.
If not for injuries to Sebastian Lletget
, Robbie Rogers
, Baggio Husidic
and Brian Rowe
, the Galaxy would be one category higher. Romain
is the real deal and when the midfield gets healthy, look out. Needs:
Defenders for spot duty, consistency for Gyasi Zardes
Second in the Eastern Conference, the Fire needs to show its stamina and tighten up defensively to rate a real shot at reaching the final. Needs:
More ice time for
so the other attackers don’t burn out. ON THE RISE ATLANTA
Not much to complain about. The South American contingent has been awesome and midfielder Julian Gressel
is already approaching Best XI candidacy as a rookie. Brad
arrival is imminent. Needs:
Another jolt of goodness, like the opening of a new stadium. ORLANDO CITY.
When your home
fans rise as one to salute a 0-0 tie, you know you’ve cracked the code. Keeper Joe Bendik
is one of the season’s best sagas. Hopefully, Kaka
stays healthy and Cyle
stays in town. Needs:
Alternatives to those two just in case. HOUSTON.
This road thing is getting ridiculous but an
attack this potent can trouble a lot of teams, home or away. Needs:
Some semblance of defensive stability. VANCOUVER.
their way back from a real clunker last season, the ‘Caps have patched up a few holes and if improvement continues can be formidable down the stretch. Needs:
The game-breaker formerly
known as Fredy Montero
. NEW ENGLAND.
The pairing of Gershon Koffie
and Xavier Kouassi
supposed to add the bite and steel to supply the Revs’ formidable attack and shield its back line. Will it be seen it week after week? Needs:
Continuation of recent success (10
points in the last five games). STANDING BY SAN JOSE.
The team of TAM has hinted at a wham-bam
announcement this month. Scoring by committee can only go so far and that 4-2 loss to the Galaxy exposed a few defensive cracks. Needs:
See above. PORTLAND.
Injuries to Diego Valeri
and a few other key players can help explain the Timbers spotty season – they have not won back-to-back games since
To be provided by centerback Larrys Mabiala
, whose signing was confirmed last week. He will be eligible when the secondary window opens July 10. SEATTLE.
Midfielder Alvaro Fernandez
has left the team for the second time. The Sounders have won three of the last four but not
convincingly, so cannot be said they are on the rise. Needs:
Not many, if Ramon Torres
can stay healthy and Will Bruin
keeps scoring off the bench. MONTREAL.
The first MLS goal for new DP Blerim Dzemaili
-- from an incisive Ignacio Piatti
entry ball -- downed the Red Bulls last weekend and sparked
hopes of a dream partnership. Needs:
More shutouts than the current total of two. DOWN BUT NOT OUT MINNESOTA UNITED.
Severe growing pains shouldn’t trouble the fans too much. There’s a lot to like but yes, lessons learned during the first half of the season must
be applied going forward. Needs:
Experience and attitude in the defensive third. COLORADO.
Ugly wins didn’t thrill the
fans last year and that’s about all this team can produce in the near future. Needs:
Skill and flair to complement the human spirit. NY RED BULLS.
They aren’t scoring enough goals and conceding too many on set plays (11 of 21). Needs:
The second comings of Dax McCarty
Going six games unbeaten indicates sufficient quality. No more long lulls, or else.
Combat pay for Andre Blake. ON THE SKIDS D.C. UNITED.
often D.C. looks out of sync and out of ideas, but there seems to be enough talent if not enough edge. Needs:
The real Luciano Acosta
, the healthy Steve Birnbaum
Crew SC simply has too many good players to be lurching under the .500 mark. The pieces are not meshing. Needs:
centerback not named Jonathan Mensah. REAL SALT LAKE.
Sure, the precocious U-20s will beef up the squad. But this climb will be
a steep one. Needs:
Veterans who have a track record of winning.